Students push limits of self-driving cars at Indy track

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

A graduate student and an alumnus of Waterloo Engineering expect to be part of history this weekend when an autonomous, million-dollar racecar they helped develop drives itself around the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway at speeds of up to 120 miles per hour.

Brian Mao (BASc ’20, mechanical engineering) and Ben Zhang, a master's student in electrical and computer engineering, are members of a four-university team set to compete with rivals from around the world for a US $1-million top prize at the Indy Autonomous Challenge on Saturday.

Brian Mao, left, and Ben Zhang at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Brian Mao, left, and Ben Zhang work trackside during testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“This is something nobody else has done before – take autonomous vehicles up to those kinds of speeds,” said Mao, now a master’s student in applied mathematics. “There are a lot of unsolved problems that have to be tackled.”

Nine teams representing 21 universities from nine counties will put modified Dallara AV-21 racecars through their paces at Indy, the largest sports venue in the world, as the culmination of a competition that included several simulated races.

“The only control we have is an emergency button,” said Zhang.

Go to Speeding into history for the full story.